How UWM Optimizes Containerization With Kubernetes

Bill Reynolds, a DevOps engineer on UWM’s platform automation team, co-authored this piece.

At United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM), we don’t see problems—we see every day as an opportunity to learn and grow, a mentality that’s reflected in our IT department’s approach to platform automation by moving toward containerization and Kubernetes. 

The team’s approach to platform automation is guided by two bootstrapping tools created in-house—Maverick and Application Bootstrapping with Service Orchestration (ABSO). These systems enable automated provisioning of Kubernetes infrastructure and application delivery pipelines and were designed by UWM engineers on the enterprise technology team. 

Maverick is a workload and configuration system specifically created for Kubernetes. It allows systems engineers to use a familiar interface (PowerShell) to configure and manage Kubernetes clusters, including the installation of security, monitoring and logging solutions, along with analytics and reporting capabilities. The application and operations teams then leverage Kubernetes for container orchestration with the clusters created with Maverick. The use of PowerShell ensures that the solution is easy to maintain for future systems engineers and administrators. Once Maverick has done its job, an application delivery pipeline is created for each solution being deployed to any newly created clusters.

UWM’s DevOps team knew that to accommodate wide-scale adoption and scalability of the container platform across the IT floor, they would need to prepare an application bootstrapping platform for Kubernetes. This led to the creation of ABSO, which enabled a privileged user to fill out a simple form, click “Submit” and have the scaffolding for their service created automatically. This included the creation of a source code repository, CI/CD pipelines, ingress configurations and more. ABSO has been a game-changer for the application development organization at UWM; after rolling it out, the provisioning time for a new microservice’s infrastructure and CI/CD pipeline went from weeks to minutes. 

The original idea for ABSO came from the experience of rolling out BOLT, one of the first containerized projects at UWM. BOLT is an underwriting system that allows mortgage brokers to underwrite a loan in 15 minutes or less. BOLT’s core requirement for a containerized OCR solution was an early indicator of how existing microservice provisioning patterns would need to change. As the first containerized applications were deployed for BOLT, the DevOps team identified which manual steps could be standardized and automated. This insight helped developers improve BOLT and set the stage for future containerized projects. 

Under the hood, ABSO exists as a collection of worker services communicating with a centralized workflow orchestration platform. Each worker is designed with a specific purpose in mind—for example, Kubernetes ingress configurations. Every component is independent and reusable. The primary logic of ABSO, which enables the interaction between these workers, is configured as code within the orchestration platform. If a new worker is introduced or an existing one is modified, the only thing that needs to change is the orchestrator’s workflow configuration.

Beyond containerized application development, ABSO represents progress toward the goal of enabling automation and self-service for a wider array of IT solutions at UWM. By centralizing the logic for a complex procedure inside the orchestration platform as a workflow definition, worker services can be reused to enable automation for any kind of manual multi-step process—even those that involve legacy platforms. These steps can even be run asynchronously, saving considerable execution time.

Maverick and ABSO represent the next generation of infrastructure and application pipeline automation at UWM. Two different teams took advantage of the tools at their disposal to form new processes that can be easily replicated, maintained and used by many teams within UWM’s technology sector.

If you also consider challenges as opportunities to grow your knowledge and advance technology, consider a career with the IT team at UWM. Visit our site and discover how you can be at the forefront of creating tomorrow’s capabilities. 

To hear more about cloud-native topics, join the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and the cloud-native community at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon North America 2022 – October 24-28, 2022

Glen Belton

Glen has been in the IT industry for over 12 years. He began his career with the goal of becoming a Cisco Networking Engineer and earned a CCNA certification. Glen’s journey led him to become a Systems Engineer. In this role he has cultivated his PowerShell skills and is the go-to guy for scripting and automation on his team. His passion for Kubernetes has helped him contribute to new innovations in IT at UWM. As a native Detroiter, Glen is glad to attend KubeCon in his home city this year!

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